Ender's Game Special Feature

Futuristic action film Ender’s Game, based on Orson Scott Card’s best-selling 1985 book of the same title, is hotly anticipated and is littered with Hollywood’s brightest young talent.

Starring True Grit’s Hallie Steinfeld and Asa Butterfield in another title role, the fantasy takes place fifty years into the future after an alien invasion. The fate of humanity now rests on the shoulders of the children sent to battle school to become strategic warriors, or more specifically Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield), a smart and tactical boy singled out by Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford) to be the hero the planet needs.

In preparation for its release, Wireless meets up with cast members Butterfield, Hallie Steinfeld, the ever lively Sir Ben Kingsley and X-Men Origins: Wolverine director Gavin Hood to talk aliens, space and Harrison Ford.

Gavin Hood (Director)

Did you find this a daunting project? Were there any worries that the author called it ‘unfilmable?’

"Yeah, Orson Scott Card famously said it was unfilmable, fortunately I didn’t hear that before the job interview! It was tricky on a couple of levels, strictly from a technical point of view and from a straight adaptation point of view. The book is based on what goes on in this young protagonist’s mind and to explore his duality in his nature such as [his] capacity for compassion as well as his capacity for terrible violence and aggression. I wanted to be true to that theme that this is not a story of a good protagonist who is wronged by some evil force and then spends the rest of the movie getting his revenge and setting the world right. 

It just isn’t one of those rather more simplified films, this is really about a young boy trying to find his own moral centre in a world that is encouraging his more aggressive nature. From a technical point of view there’s all the great fun stuff we have with the battle room and with the simulations. In the book they are slightly different, I’d like to hope fans will feel we’ve made them more visual for the purpose of cinema."

You also wrote the screenplay, did that help or hinder you?

"It really helps. I just find that the writing process for one is tremendous and part of the preparation because you’re really forced to ask yourself what you want from the scene. I know fans want everything and I’m a fan of the book but you can’t fit everything into two hours! I’ve had the experience of doing a big motion picture where the studios change pages on you overnight, they had a bunch of writers back in LA and I was out in Australia so you cannot imagine how crazy it can be! I was very na├»ve when I did my first very big Hollywood movie but I learned a lot. One of the things I learnt was that I wanted to go back to my roots from when I was a young independent filmmaker like ‘Thank you very much I’d like to have my script absolutely locked!’ and if that means writing it myself so that I can focus on what I’m filming as opposed to trying to direct a film while the ground is shifting under you. So this was a far better way of preparing for the film."

What’s the one thing you want people to take away from Ender’s Game?

"I want them to take away two things. I want them to have great fun and really enjoy this wishful film and who wouldn’t want to jump out into zero gravity and play that game? But I’d also like them to take away the fact that that’s part of the seduction, this stuff looks like fun, we make it look like fun and yet its in the service of the war. So I would just love for them to have a great time, then just chat with each other about the themes and ideas that are presented and then go and have a good pizza."

Asa Butterfield (Ender Wiggin)

Did you find it hard to get into the mindset of Ender?

"In a way because it’s set fifty years in the future there isn’t any way of knowing what these children have been through but one thing I have going for me is being a young actor there is a sense of pressure on my shoulders to be this… star. I know that’s definitely muted by the fact that I’m living in London. There’s nowhere near as much of that spotlight as in Hollywood, but it’s the same essence as Ender, even though he has the pressure of the planet’s fate on his shoulder. That’s probably one of the main ways I can relate to him. I like to think I’m quite smart which is also something I can relate to."

How do you think Petra feels about Ender?

"I think that relationship is quite important in the film. When Ender’s first taken away from his home, from everyone he loves, everyone he trusts and put into this completely alien world where almost immediately he’s alienated from his peers there’s no one that he can talk to about what’s going on so he doesn’t really know what he’s supposed to be doing. When he meets Petra as their relationship develops they start to realise they can trust each other. She almost fills the gap that his sister has left so it’s definitely not a love relationship in any sense I don’t think, I just think they’re really close friends. They don’t know anything about boyfriends or girlfriends, they’re just someone they can lean on, to help."

Did you speak to Harrison about Star Wars?

"I don’t think any of us had the balls to talk to him about anything other than Ender’s Game really! We were having so much fun but at the same time you have to be professional on set."

Sir Ben Kingsley (Mazer Rackham)

When you first read the script, how did the ending make you feel?

"Well, the ending is that one wonders whether or not, without giving too much away, the audience will be curious, intrigued and troubled to know, is this child’s soul going to be distorted forever? Or will he get back to his original self? That in spite of or because of that very taxing journey, adolescence to young adulthood, have they distorted him? I think the answer is in the film and I find it very uplifting. I think that there will be a section of the audience that say ‘I don’t usually go to science fiction films but I really like that.

I felt this story could have been told about an ancient Greek warrior four thousand years ago. Different pressures would have been applied to him, but the parallels when you actually pull back the differences I think we’re dealing with an ancient myth in a science fiction context."

"I think that there will be a section of the audience that say ‘I don’t usually go to science fiction films but I really like that." Sir Ben Kingsley.

How do you think your character feels towards Ender?

"He is a warrior. He’s a really tough coach and he only needs to get to know his pupil in order to further train him, where are his cracks? Where are his flaws? Where are his allegiances? Where are his role models? Where are his loyalties? He’s a very skilled warrior. I found it a profoundly unsentimental film and I think it’s pretty hard. Doesn’t mean to say it’s not enjoyable, but it deals with tough issues."

Hallie Steinfeld (Petra Arkanian)

How did you find settling into the role of Petra?

"It was really fun and exciting. I think that every character that I’ve played has had some kind of inner strength that at some point in the film really comes though and I think that my character in Ender’s Game really pulls through and shows her strength physically and emotionally. I loved that about this character."

What do you think is the main message of this film?

"I think there are many, there’s everything from leadership, compassion, all these different things that are so relevant to today. I don’t know that there is a main message I think there are plenty and it will be interesting to see what the audience takes away from it because there is so much in there. What’s so great about it is it might not seem relevant because it’s this big science fiction adventure but it’s almost as if these incredibly beautiful visual effects are a bonus to this story. It’s very character driven and I think there’s quite a lot in there."

Ender’s Game is released in cinemas on the 25th of October.

If you can't wait until then check out the trailer below. Or enter here to win a set of Ender's Game exclusive memorabilia.